Andy Blunden. September 2008

Two disasters is better than one

The simultaneous destruction of the natural conditions for human life and economic conditions for capital accumulation opens the possibility that the disaster which we could have expected to follow from either collapse taken separately could lead to a happy outcome taken together.

Let’s face it, the speed with which the environmental catastrophe was coming together and the manifest reluctance of the mass of the population, let alone their governments, to sacrifice a single plastic bag or litre of petrol to prevent it, makes it clear that only an involuntary collapse of capital could stop the juggernaut of capital accumulation.

A few years ago, at the height of the moral panic about refugees and terrorist conspiracies, 25-year-old whiz-kids ripping billions off the money markets were regarded as role models for errant youth. Then Rupert Murdoch changed sides on the question of climate change and people started to take collapse of the global climate system seriously. Before that turn in the Zeitgeist which forced the Dirty Digger to change tack, a collapse of the economy could have led only to a future of Mad Max. But the atmosphere, the oceans, the land and the rivers are commons. It has become widely understood that without a serious orientation to protect the commons, human life is impossible. This simple insight is no longer esoteric but a view which has come to be widely shared. It may be that in the US, where “Drill, drill, drill” is an election slogan, the wake up call has still not been heard. But elsewhere it has.

This has created a completely new situation in the which the myopic greed and ruthless cynicism of the financial world can be seen for what it is: genocidal. Under these conditions it is reasonable to expect that the many people will understand that the market is done for. How can you propose at this juncture that ‘carbon trading’ is a sensible way to ‘regulate’ the atmosphere? The privatisation of water was a dismal failure and the atmosphere and the oceans will fare no better than the water table. The criminal sanctions are the only way to deal with people who destroy the natural conditions for human life for private profit. How can the people who have sucked the banks dry to pay themselves billion-dollar ‘salaries’ be trusted to run the biosphere?

What we are witnessing at the moment (October 2008) is Stage One of the global financial crisis, in which governments are holding off collapse of the credit system by stepping up in their role of lender of last resort. They can stabilise the system, but only at the expense of their own stability. The US government debt is currently increasing at a rate of US$3.3 billion a day, and has been increasing at an ever quickening pace since Ronald Reagan’s day. Every US citizen owes US$34,000 share of that debt,[1] on top of their private debt. This will obviously never be repaid. The fact that “tax-breaks” were included in the trillion-dollar corporate welfare package is evidence that the US government has no idea of what is happening. The only reason the Americans have been allowed to accumulate this debt up till now is that all the other countries are dependent on sustaining the American lifestyle to stimulate their own economy. But with no prospect of repayment and the US economy in recession this is increasingly unlikely to continue. Look at the scale of fictional value being wiped out in the recent stock market drops every day – these amounts dwarf what the central banks have at their disposal.

Iceland today, USA tomorrow.

And look at the British reaction to the collapse of Iceland’s central bank – they used terrorism laws against the government of Iceland to freeze Icelandic funds in retaliation for funds speculatively invested in high Icelandic interest rates by local authorities in Britain. So much for ‘international cooperation’. Clearly the danger of war between great powers must again be taken seriously.

Stage Two of the current global economic crisis will begin with the collapse of the dollar and the consequent collapse of one currency after another and the destruction of world trade. As it says in the Bible:

“The last will be first, and the first will be last, because many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 19:16)

Those countries which have benefited least and been least reliant on finance capital, international trade and moving dirty jobs off-shore, will be best placed to survive this situation.

No country can afford to throw money into this vortex. But the current phase in which governments are stepping in to bail out capitalist institutions and use community funds to prop up a system of obscene inequality, makes it clear that this is a crisis which can only be solved by nationalising the financial institutions and running them for the common good. Only by collaboration, by people working together, can this crisis be resolved. It absolutely cannot be solved by the market. The increasingly arbitrary and unjustifiable actions of governments must be condemned.

The Zeitgeist is now such that collective action is a viable approach to common problems.

Andy Blunden
11 October 2008



1. Six months later, under the Obama administration, the rate of uncontrolled expansion of the US government debt has increased: the debt is now rising at a rate of $3.8b per day and stands at US$36,500 per citizen on top of private debt of about US$130,000 per citizen. The basis of this is the refusal of the US working class to accept cuts in their living standards, and the collaboration of governments and corporations in exacting the cost of this from the working masses of the “Third World.” The price for postponing class warfare in the US is the destruction of the US dollar, and the last remnants of the 1944 Bretton Woods arrangements.